with - c# type parameter




Create Generic method constraining T to an Enum (14)

I'm building a function to extend the Enum.Parse concept that

  • Allows a default value to be parsed in case that an Enum value is not found
  • Is case insensitive

So I wrote the following:

public static T GetEnumFromString<T>(string value, T defaultValue) where T : Enum
{
    if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(value)) return defaultValue;
    foreach (T item in Enum.GetValues(typeof(T)))
    {
        if (item.ToString().ToLower().Equals(value.Trim().ToLower())) return item;
    }
    return defaultValue;
}

I am getting a Error Constraint cannot be special class System.Enum.

Fair enough, but is there a workaround to allow a Generic Enum, or am I going to have to mimic the Parse function and pass a type as an attribute, which forces the ugly boxing requirement to your code.

EDIT All suggestions below have been greatly appreciated, thanks.

Have settled on (I've left the loop to maintain case insensitivity - I am using this when parsing XML)

public static class EnumUtils
{
    public static T ParseEnum<T>(string value, T defaultValue) where T : struct, IConvertible
    {
        if (!typeof(T).IsEnum) throw new ArgumentException("T must be an enumerated type");
        if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(value)) return defaultValue;

        foreach (T item in Enum.GetValues(typeof(T)))
        {
            if (item.ToString().ToLower().Equals(value.Trim().ToLower())) return item;
        }
        return defaultValue;
    }
}

EDIT: (16th Feb 2015) Julien Lebosquain has recently posted a compiler enforced type-safe generic solution in MSIL or F# below, which is well worth a look, and an upvote. I will remove this edit if the solution bubbles further up the page.


C# ≥ 7.3

Starting with C# 7.3 (available with Visual Studio 2017 ≥ v15.7), this code is now completely valid:

public static TEnum Parse<TEnum>(string value)
where TEnum : struct, Enum { ... }

C# ≤ 7.2

You can have a real compiler enforced enum constraint by abusing constraint inheritance. The following code specifies both a class and a struct constraints at the same time:

public abstract class EnumClassUtils<TClass>
where TClass : class
{

    public static TEnum Parse<TEnum>(string value)
    where TEnum : struct, TClass
    {
        return (TEnum) Enum.Parse(typeof(TEnum), value);
    }

}

public class EnumUtils : EnumClassUtils<Enum>
{
}

Usage:

EnumUtils.Parse<SomeEnum>("value");

Note: this is specifically stated in the C# 5.0 language specification:

If type parameter S depends on type parameter T then: [...] It is valid for S to have the value type constraint and T to have the reference type constraint. Effectively this limits T to the types System.Object, System.ValueType, System.Enum, and any interface type.


This feature is finally supported in C# 7.3!

The following snippet (from the dotnet samples) demonstrates it use:

public static Dictionary<int, string> EnumNamedValues<T>() where T : System.Enum
{
    var result = new Dictionary<int, string>();
    var values = Enum.GetValues(typeof(T));

    foreach (int item in values)
        result.Add(item, Enum.GetName(typeof(T), item));
    return result;
}

Be sure to set your language version in your C# project to version 7.3.


Original Answer below:

I'm late to the game, but I took it as a challenge to see how it could be done. It's not possible in C# (or VB.NET, but scroll down for F#), but is possible in MSIL. I wrote this little....thing

// license: http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0.html
.assembly MyThing{}
.class public abstract sealed MyThing.Thing
       extends [mscorlib]System.Object
{
  .method public static !!T  GetEnumFromString<valuetype .ctor ([mscorlib]System.Enum) T>(string strValue,
                                                                                          !!T defaultValue) cil managed
  {
    .maxstack  2
    .locals init ([0] !!T temp,
                  [1] !!T return_value,
                  [2] class [mscorlib]System.Collections.IEnumerator enumerator,
                  [3] class [mscorlib]System.IDisposable disposer)
    // if(string.IsNullOrEmpty(strValue)) return defaultValue;
    ldarg strValue
    call bool [mscorlib]System.String::IsNullOrEmpty(string)
    brfalse.s HASVALUE
    br RETURNDEF         // return default it empty

    // foreach (T item in Enum.GetValues(typeof(T)))
  HASVALUE:
    // Enum.GetValues.GetEnumerator()
    ldtoken !!T
    call class [mscorlib]System.Type [mscorlib]System.Type::GetTypeFromHandle(valuetype [mscorlib]System.RuntimeTypeHandle)
    call class [mscorlib]System.Array [mscorlib]System.Enum::GetValues(class [mscorlib]System.Type)
    callvirt instance class [mscorlib]System.Collections.IEnumerator [mscorlib]System.Array::GetEnumerator() 
    stloc enumerator
    .try
    {
      CONDITION:
        ldloc enumerator
        callvirt instance bool [mscorlib]System.Collections.IEnumerator::MoveNext()
        brfalse.s LEAVE

      STATEMENTS:
        // T item = (T)Enumerator.Current
        ldloc enumerator
        callvirt instance object [mscorlib]System.Collections.IEnumerator::get_Current()
        unbox.any !!T
        stloc temp
        ldloca.s temp
        constrained. !!T

        // if (item.ToString().ToLower().Equals(value.Trim().ToLower())) return item;
        callvirt instance string [mscorlib]System.Object::ToString()
        callvirt instance string [mscorlib]System.String::ToLower()
        ldarg strValue
        callvirt instance string [mscorlib]System.String::Trim()
        callvirt instance string [mscorlib]System.String::ToLower()
        callvirt instance bool [mscorlib]System.String::Equals(string)
        brfalse.s CONDITION
        ldloc temp
        stloc return_value
        leave.s RETURNVAL

      LEAVE:
        leave.s RETURNDEF
    }
    finally
    {
        // ArrayList's Enumerator may or may not inherit from IDisposable
        ldloc enumerator
        isinst [mscorlib]System.IDisposable
        stloc.s disposer
        ldloc.s disposer
        ldnull
        ceq
        brtrue.s LEAVEFINALLY
        ldloc.s disposer
        callvirt instance void [mscorlib]System.IDisposable::Dispose()
      LEAVEFINALLY:
        endfinally
    }

  RETURNDEF:
    ldarg defaultValue
    stloc return_value

  RETURNVAL:
    ldloc return_value
    ret
  }
} 

Which generates a function that would look like this, if it were valid C#:

T GetEnumFromString<T>(string valueString, T defaultValue) where T : Enum

Then with the following C# code:

using MyThing;
// stuff...
private enum MyEnum { Yes, No, Okay }
static void Main(string[] args)
{
    Thing.GetEnumFromString("No", MyEnum.Yes); // returns MyEnum.No
    Thing.GetEnumFromString("Invalid", MyEnum.Okay);  // returns MyEnum.Okay
    Thing.GetEnumFromString("AnotherInvalid", 0); // compiler error, not an Enum
}

Unfortunately, this means having this part of your code written in MSIL instead of C#, with the only added benefit being that you're able to constrain this method by System.Enum. It's also kind of a bummer, because it gets compiled into a separate assembly. However, it doesn't mean you have to deploy it that way.

By removing the line .assembly MyThing{} and invoking ilasm as follows:

ilasm.exe /DLL /OUTPUT=MyThing.netmodule

you get a netmodule instead of an assembly.

Unfortunately, VS2010 (and earlier, obviously) does not support adding netmodule references, which means you'd have to leave it in 2 separate assemblies when you're debugging. The only way you can add them as part of your assembly would be to run csc.exe yourself using the /addmodule:{files} command line argument. It wouldn't be too painful in an MSBuild script. Of course, if you're brave or stupid, you can run csc yourself manually each time. And it certainly gets more complicated as multiple assemblies need access to it.

So, it CAN be done in .Net. Is it worth the extra effort? Um, well, I guess I'll let you decide on that one.


F# Solution as alternative

Extra Credit: It turns out that a generic restriction on enum is possible in at least one other .NET language besides MSIL: F#.

type MyThing =
    static member GetEnumFromString<'T when 'T :> Enum> str defaultValue: 'T =
        /// protect for null (only required in interop with C#)
        let str = if isNull str then String.Empty else str

        Enum.GetValues(typedefof<'T>)
        |> Seq.cast<_>
        |> Seq.tryFind(fun v -> String.Compare(v.ToString(), str.Trim(), true) = 0)
        |> function Some x -> x | None -> defaultValue

This one is easier to maintain since it's a well-known language with full Visual Studio IDE support, but you still need a separate project in your solution for it. However, it naturally produces considerably different IL (the code is very different) and it relies on the FSharp.Core library, which, just like any other external library, needs to become part of your distribution.

Here's how you can use it (basically the same as the MSIL solution), and to show that it correctly fails on otherwise synonymous structs:

// works, result is inferred to have type StringComparison
var result = MyThing.GetEnumFromString("OrdinalIgnoreCase", StringComparison.Ordinal);
// type restriction is recognized by C#, this fails at compile time
var result = MyThing.GetEnumFromString("OrdinalIgnoreCase", 42);

As stated in other answers before; while this cannot be expressed in source-code it can actually be done on IL Level. @Christopher Currens answer shows how the IL do to that.

With Fodys Add-In ExtraConstraints.Fody there's a very simple way, complete with build-tooling, to achieve this. Just add their nuget packages (Fody, ExtraConstraints.Fody) to your project and add the constraints as follows (Excerpt from the Readme of ExtraConstraints):

public void MethodWithEnumConstraint<[EnumConstraint] T>() {...}

public void MethodWithTypeEnumConstraint<[EnumConstraint(typeof(ConsoleColor))] T>() {...}

and Fody will add the necessary IL for the constraint to be present. Also note the additional feature of constraining delegates:

public void MethodWithDelegateConstraint<[DelegateConstraint] T> ()
{...}

public void MethodWithTypeDelegateConstraint<[DelegateConstraint(typeof(Func<int>))] T> ()
{...}

Regarding Enums, you might also want to take note of the highly interesting Enums.NET.


Hope this is helpful:

public static TValue ParseEnum<TValue>(string value, TValue defaultValue)
                  where TValue : struct // enum 
{
      try
      {
            if (String.IsNullOrEmpty(value))
                  return defaultValue;
            return (TValue)Enum.Parse(typeof (TValue), value);
      }
      catch(Exception ex)
      {
            return defaultValue;
      }
}

I created an extension Method to get integer value from enum take look at method implementation

public static int ToInt<T>(this T soure) where T : IConvertible//enum
{
    if (typeof(T).IsEnum)
    {
        return (int) (IConvertible)soure;// the tricky part
    }
    //else
    //    throw new ArgumentException("T must be an enumerated type");
    return soure.ToInt32(CultureInfo.CurrentCulture);
}

this is usage

MemberStatusEnum.Activated.ToInt()// using extension Method
(int) MemberStatusEnum.Activated //the ordinary way

I do have specific requirement where I required to use enum with text associated with enum value. For example when I use enum to specify error type it required to describe error details.

public static class XmlEnumExtension
{
    public static string ReadXmlEnumAttribute(this Enum value)
    {
        if (value == null) throw new ArgumentNullException("value");
        var attribs = (XmlEnumAttribute[]) value.GetType().GetField(value.ToString()).GetCustomAttributes(typeof (XmlEnumAttribute), true);
        return attribs.Length > 0 ? attribs[0].Name : value.ToString();
    }

    public static T ParseXmlEnumAttribute<T>(this string str)
    {
        foreach (T item in Enum.GetValues(typeof(T)))
        {
            var attribs = (XmlEnumAttribute[])item.GetType().GetField(item.ToString()).GetCustomAttributes(typeof(XmlEnumAttribute), true);
            if(attribs.Length > 0 && attribs[0].Name.Equals(str)) return item;
        }
        return (T)Enum.Parse(typeof(T), str, true);
    }
}

public enum MyEnum
{
    [XmlEnum("First Value")]
    One,
    [XmlEnum("Second Value")]
    Two,
    Three
}

 static void Main()
 {
    // Parsing from XmlEnum attribute
    var str = "Second Value";
    var me = str.ParseXmlEnumAttribute<MyEnum>();
    System.Console.WriteLine(me.ReadXmlEnumAttribute());
    // Parsing without XmlEnum
    str = "Three";
    me = str.ParseXmlEnumAttribute<MyEnum>();
    System.Console.WriteLine(me.ReadXmlEnumAttribute());
    me = MyEnum.One;
    System.Console.WriteLine(me.ReadXmlEnumAttribute());
}

I modified the sample by dimarzionist. This version will only work with Enums and not let structs get through.

public static T ParseEnum<T>(string enumString)
    where T : struct // enum 
    {
    if (String.IsNullOrEmpty(enumString) || !typeof(T).IsEnum)
       throw new Exception("Type given must be an Enum");
    try
    {

       return (T)Enum.Parse(typeof(T), enumString, true);
    }
    catch (Exception ex)
    {
       return default(T);
    }
}

I tried to improve the code a bit:

public T LoadEnum<T>(string value, T defaultValue = default(T)) where T : struct, IComparable, IFormattable, IConvertible
{
    if (Enum.IsDefined(typeof(T), value))
    {
        return (T)Enum.Parse(typeof(T), value, true);
    }
    return defaultValue;
}

If it's ok to use direct casting afterwards, I guess you can use the System.Enum base class in your method, wherever necessary. You just need to replace the type parameters carefully. So the method implementation would be like:

public static class EnumUtils
{
    public static Enum GetEnumFromString(string value, Enum defaultValue)
    {
        if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(value)) return defaultValue;
        foreach (Enum item in Enum.GetValues(defaultValue.GetType()))
        {
            if (item.ToString().ToLower().Equals(value.Trim().ToLower())) return item;
        }
        return defaultValue;
    }
}

Then you can use it like:

var parsedOutput = (YourEnum)EnumUtils.GetEnumFromString(someString, YourEnum.DefaultValue);

In java, you would use...

    SomeClass<T extends enum> {
}

Pretty straightforward, that.


It should also be considered that since the release of C# 7.3 using Enum constraints is supported out-of-the-box without having to do additional checking and stuff.

So going forward and given you've changed the language version of your project to C# 7.3 the following code is going to work perfectly fine:

    private static T GetEnumFromString<T>(string value, T defaultValue) where T : Enum
    {
        // Your code goes here...
    }

In case you're don't know how to change the language version to C# 7.3 see the following screenshot:

EDIT 1 - Required Visual Studio Version and considering ReSharper

For Visual Studio to recognize the new syntax you need at least version 15.7. You can find that also mentioned in Microsoft's release notes, see Visual Studio 2017 15.7 Release Notes. Thanks @MohamedElshawaf for pointing out this valid question.

Pls also note that in my case ReSharper 2018.1 as of writing this EDIT does not yet support C# 7.3. Having ReSharper activated it highlights the Enum constraint as an error telling me Cannot use 'System.Array', 'System.Delegate', 'System.Enum', 'System.ValueType', 'object' as type parameter constraint. ReSharper suggests as a quick fix to Remove 'Enum' constraint of type paramter T of method

However, if you turn off ReSharper temporarily under Tools -> Options -> ReSharper Ultimate -> General you'll see that the syntax is perfectly fine given that you use VS 15.7 or higher and C# 7.3 or higher.


Since Enum Type implements IConvertible interface, a better implementation should be something like this:

public T GetEnumFromString<T>(string value) where T : struct, IConvertible
{
   if (!typeof(T).IsEnum) 
   {
      throw new ArgumentException("T must be an enumerated type");
   }

   //...
}

This will still permit passing of value types implementing IConvertible. The chances are rare though.


This is my take at it. Combined from the answers and MSDN

public static TEnum ParseToEnum<TEnum>(this string text) where TEnum : struct, IConvertible, IComparable, IFormattable
{
    if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(text) || !typeof(TEnum).IsEnum)
        throw new ArgumentException("TEnum must be an Enum type");

    try
    {
        var enumValue = (TEnum)Enum.Parse(typeof(TEnum), text.Trim(), true);
        return enumValue;
    }
    catch (Exception)
    {
        throw new ArgumentException(string.Format("{0} is not a member of the {1} enumeration.", text, typeof(TEnum).Name));
    }
}

MSDN Source


You can define a static constructor for the class that will check that the type T is an enum and throw an exception if it is not. This is the method mentioned by Jeffery Richter in his book CLR via C#.

internal sealed class GenericTypeThatRequiresAnEnum<T> {
    static GenericTypeThatRequiresAnEnum() {
        if (!typeof(T).IsEnum) {
        throw new ArgumentException("T must be an enumerated type");
        }
    }
}

Then in the parse method, you can just use Enum.Parse(typeof(T), input, true) to convert from string to the enum. The last true parameter is for ignoring case of the input.





generic-constraints